BEATTYVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes on Wednesday twice refused to say whether she would have voted for President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.
Asked two times whether she’d have voted for the 2010 overhaul, the Kentucky Democrat who is challenging Senate Republican leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told The Associated Press: “I, when we are in the United States Senate, will work to fix the Affordable Care Act.”
Grimes added: “I believe the politically motivated response you continue to see from Mitch McConnell in terms of repeal, root and branch, is not in reality or keeping … with what the facts are here in Kentucky.”
The law Republicans call “Obamacare” presents a delicate issue for Grimes, who won the Democratic Senate primary on Tuesday. Kynect, Kentucky’s state-run health insurance exchange made possible by the law, is wildly popular. More than 400,000 people have either signed up for an expanded Medicaid program or purchased private insurance plans with the help of government subsidies. But Obamacare remains unpopular in the state, mostly because President Barack Obama himself is unpopular here.
“It’s a big deal for us. Because I can’t stand the president,” said Edna “Tag” Pearson, a Republican who voted in Tuesday’s GOP primary. “It was wrong from the get-go.”
But sensitive to the political power of Kentuckians benefiting from the law, Grimes stood by it.
“I am not and will not be for taking away insurance that 400,000 Kentuckians just recently got access to,” she said.
The issue has hurt some Democratic candidates in other close Senate races. In Georgia, Senate candidate Michelle Nunn would not answer the question about voting for the health care law when asked by MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough. Republicans quickly pounced, saying it was evidence that Nunn would be a “yes” vote for Obama’s policies.
McConnell is already comparing Grimes to Obama. In his victory speech after Tuesday’s GOP primary, McConnell said a vote for Grimes would be “a vote for Obamacare and a president who sold it to us on a mountain of lies.”
Grimes has worked hard to distance herself from Obama, who has a 60 percent disapproval rating with Kentucky voters. She released a television ad Wednesday morning where she looked directly into the camera and said: “No matter who the president is, I won’t answer to them. I’ll only answer to you.”